Tag Archives: mental health

Scottish Liberal Democrats demand answers from Ruth Davidson over mental health cuts to PIP

The Conservatives have not covered themselves in glory on social security issues recently. The removal of Housing Benefit from young people, the totally immoral restriction of benefits to two children and the deeply objectionable 8 page form that women have to complete if they want to claim for a third child conceived by rape, the cuts to disability benefits and cutting back eligibility to Personal Independence Payments for those suffering psychological distress have all shown a cruel lack of understanding of real life.

Let’s not forget the five year benefit freeze imposed by George Osborne in 2015. With Brexit bound to increase prices, that is simply unsustainable.

The cuts are significant, but even more reprehensible is the inhumane stripping of dignity from those who need our help. A civilised society supports those in need. If that makes me a bleeding heart Liberal, as Tim Farron declared he was on Question Time the other night, then I’m proud to be so.

Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives may pretend that they are nicer than their Westminster counterparts, making the right noises on mental health recently, but we can’t forget that they are the same party. Every awful thing that Theresa May’s Brexit government does reflects on them.

As health and social security spokespeople for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton and I have written to Ruth Davidson asking her to state her position on the cuts to PIP. Our letter says:

Dear Ruth,

We were pleased to see your party last week join the Liberal Democrats and campaigners in declaring that the SNP Government’s new mental health strategy lacked ambition. It was the right thing to do because the new strategy will not deliver the transformation we desperately need to see.

However, we were deeply concerned to see that, in the very same week, your colleagues at Westminster were voting to restrict personal independence payments to people with mental health and anxiety conditions, affecting tens of thousands of people both in and out of work.

This shows little understanding of the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for example those trapped in their homes because they are too anxious to leave without someone. These people can need help to leave their home every bit as much as someone suffering from a physical condition.

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Freddie Flintoff, Professor Green, Ruby Wax and others talk about their mental health issues

Over the years, here at Liberal Democrat Voice, we have strongly publicised Time to Talk day. On the same theme, the charity campaign Heads Together are publishing a series of videos on YouTube where famous and not famous people talk about their mental health issues.

It really is good to see role models opening up about their problems. Below, you’ll find three of the videos. In the top one, Stephen Manderson (aka Professor Green) and Freddie Flintoff talk. Next down, Ruby Wax talks with her husband, TV producer Ed Bye.

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Changes to Disability Benefits and the Government’s blasé attitude to psychological distress.

Last month the Government announced that it was going to be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which would see those people with mental illnesses stuck without the vital support that they need. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.

The Tribunal ruled that someone who is unable to undertake a journey without assistance from another person due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulty navigating. Rather than accepting the ruling of the courts, the Government decided to change the legislation and the descriptors to exclude people suffering from some mental health disabilities by inserting the following into the legislation and the descriptors, “for reasons other than psychological distress”.

The Government produced its own analysis of which claimants and conditions are likely to be affected by these changes, 

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Despite fight by Lib Dems, government changes today deny up to 160,000 people suffering from mental health disabilities access to Personal Independence Mobility Component

As we reported less than a month ago, Liberal Democtrats in the Parliament have been fighting the government’s decision to deny disability benefits to 160,000 vulnerable people. The government have refused to listen and the new regulations came into force today.

Stephen Fry tweeted:

He links to this message from Mind, the mental health charity:

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Children’s Mental Health Week: Nearly two thirds of children feel worried all the time

Nick Clegg has written an article for the Huffington Post to mark Children’s Mental Health Week, highlighting a study which found that nearly two thirds of children feel worried all the time.

As he says, stress and worry are part of life but it’s important that people have the right support when they need it or that stress and worry could develop into mental ill health.

Stress and worry are a part of every walk of life. No job, no task, is without its stresses and strains. During my time as deputy Prime Minister I would have numerous decisions to juggle which would leave me worrying about whether I was making the right choices or not. Luckily I have an amazing family and close friends who gave me all the support I could wish for. Not everyone is as fortunate.

As an adult having to deal with such pressure is extremely difficult to navigate so I can’t imagine what it would be like for a child to feel anxious and stressed all the time. Yet I was surprised to learn this week that nearly two thirds of children say they worry all the time. Accordingly to a new survey published by children’s charity Place2Be 63% of children still at primary school say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves.

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One mental health first aider per school is not enough

I welcomed Theresa May’s announcement on Monday in which she said “every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training”. MHFA England has campaigned for many years to get school staff trained in Mental Health First Aid and are thrilled that there will be at least one Mental Health First Aider in each secondary school.

But it doesn’t go far enough. Every single teacher, as part of their teacher training course, should be trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Poppy Jaman, CEO of MHFA England, said:

Mental ill health in young people is a growing health concern, with half of all lifetime cases of mental health issues starting by the age of 14.

There is a bespoke MHFA England course called Youth Mental Health First Aid which could be modified for teacher training. A short course could change a young person’s life.

A teacher overseeing a class of 30+ pupils needs to have the skills to recognise early warning signs of mental ill-health. One first aider per school can help in moments of crisis, but cannot possibly pick up all the mental health warning signs within the school population. A large part of the MHFA course is in learning about various mental health problems (such as stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide ideation, psychosis) and how to intervene early on.

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Our nation’s mental health is a clear and present danger

On Monday, Theresa May’s announcement about mental health came to precious little in money terms – a mere £15m of additional investment to be precise. This despite the fact that Norman Lamb and others have made it clear that extra money that was earmarked for mental health last year has in fact been used to prop up NHS trusts who are suffering from financial difficulties. Mental health is crying out for more money as Isabel Hardman eloquently writes about in the Telegraph today based on her own experience.

The statistics are clear. Research in 2014 found that one in ten people wait over a year just to get an assessment for a talking therapy, while four in ten wait more than three months. Two thirds told the We Need To Talk coalition that they had become more unwell while waiting, with one in six attempting suicide. In 2014, over 6,000 people died from suicide which is 16 per day. Nobody would be happy to wait three months for a broken leg to be treated or to have to travel 300 miles to see their children for a broken arm. Yet this is precisely the state of mental health in the UK today.

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